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Answering your questions about nonprofits, disability rights, and the current crises

Book titled ADA Americans with Disabilities Act rests on a wooden surface

We’ve been sharing answers to our questions about COVID-19, our democracy, racial equity in our society, and what we can do to help the world move forward. Recently, we emailed to ask you to send us your questions. Here are two questions we received on disability rights and the current crises, and what we found when we looked for answers in our data:

Disability rights

Question from @philmeyer via Twitter:
How long will it take for society to treat people with physical and intellectual #disabilities equally in terms of housing, employment, transportation, voting and physical accommodations? It’s been 30 years since the passage of #ADA. #ableism #WeHaveSomeQuestions

We can’t predict the future, but we do have data about the scale and scope of the nonprofit sector in the U.S. Here’s what we can say about how far the nonprofit world has come in support of people with disabilities, 30 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law. We can measure two things: the number of nonprofits and the amount of foundation funding in support of people with disabilities.

On GuideStar, we’ve identified 19,969 U.S. nonprofits that serve people with disabilities. The work of these organizations is diverse—as is the population of the 61 million adult Americans who have a physical or intellectual disability.[i] Some, such as Lifeworks of Egan, Minnesota, provide employment support and direct care services. Others, such as Disability Rights California, center their work around advocacy and litigation to advance the rights of people with disabilities. Both types of nonprofit are working to fulfill the promise of the ADA.

These nonprofits receive funding from a variety of sources, including from U.S. foundations. Candid’s detailed data on foundation grantmaking allows us to say something about how and where this funding supports people with disabilities. In 2018, the largest U.S. foundations awarded about $786 million—or 2.4 percent of  funding—explicitly to supporting people with disabilities.[ii] [iii] This amount is comparatively small relative to other population groups we track: economically disadvantaged people (28.6 percent of  funding by the largest foundations), children and youth (20.5 percent), ethnic and racial groups (7.2 percent), and women and girls (7.2 percent.)[iv]

Candid also tracks the strategy that a grant uses. Five percent of foundation funding for people with disabilities is coded for “Policy, advocacy, and systems reform.”[v] This is funding that explicitly focuses on changing policy and pursuing structural change, an approach that some may say is fully in line with realizing the promise of the ADA.

So while we can’t predict the time line on the struggle for disability rights, we can see how far we’ve come and point to the expert nonprofits that have more informed takes on this question. Nonprofits working on and funding these issues are searchable on GuideStar and Foundation Directory Online, are sharing research on IssueLab, and are publishing their takes to the Candid blog and other outlets, such as Nonprofit Quarterly.

Nonprofits and the current crises

Question from @Tim_Gyves via Twitter:
Do you think #nonprofits are left to turn to the usual sources of support or should they, like everyone else, expect some extra level of assistance to help weather the storm? It seems like there’s a definite need without obvious resources being presented.

We’ve been looking at how organizations have been responding to the cumulative impacts of COVID-19, continued economic disruption, and racial inequality. In response to the crises of 2020, we have seen significant funding move more quickly than ever before, including $16 billion to address the COVID-19 crisis and $10 billion toward racial equity.

A Foundation Source survey found 42 percent of private foundations surveyed had increased the dollar amount of their grantmaking since the start of 2020 and expect to do so in the remaining months of the year. Many foundations are being more flexible, extending or waiving deadlines, and providing unrestricted grants. But how widespread and sustainable this is, is uncertain. Nonprofit leaders continue to say that they need clear communication about future funding and support beyond grants. In addition, giving expectations of individual donors remains mixed. A recent Eagle Hill study found that 35 percent of Americans expect to donate less money or no money to charitable causes in the coming year as the economic crisis and high unemployment linger. How much people will give and if some will give more than others remains to be seen.

Nonetheless, nonprofits are building their own resilience—many have engaged in new forms of fundraising, emergency fundraising, and other strategies they may not have taken up before, leading some to find new sources of funding.

Another thing to pay attention to is who actually has access to funding. If there is a surge of government intervention or donor generosity, how inclusive will it be? Notably nonprofits deemed “large” were shut out of two significant sources of COVID-19-related financial support: the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program and the Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program.

Although we don’t know how every nonprofit will be affected financially, or what assistance will become available to it, we can recommend that nonprofits plan for sustainability by developing strategies to make sure fundraising is diversified and having honest conversations with donors and stakeholders.

For answers to more timely questions, visit



[ii] These figures are based on the Foundation 1000, an annual data set based on all grants of $10,000 or more awarded by 1,000 of the largest U.S. community and private foundations. The latest available data set is from 2018.

[iii] Some 86% of this funding focuses on the U.S. The remaining amount represents international support for people with disabilities awarded by U.S. funders.

[iv] These population categories come from Candid’s Philanthropy Classification System. Individual grants may support (and be coded for) more than once population group or no population groups, based on information Candid receives about the grant.

[v] This category is also featured in Candid’s Philanthropy Classification System, under “Support strategies.”


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